Seeding Discontent

January 3, 2017

We have heard for years that the Michigan High School Athletic Association Football Playoffs have created scheduling problems for schools and have caused the demise of leagues, no matter how many times the playoffs expanded – from 16 schools in 1975 to 256 schools today (plus 16 more in the 8-player tournament). Many other states with a variety of other football playoff formats report similar stresses on their member schools.

The inability of weaker teams to compete within a league and the difficulty that stronger teams face to find willing opponents to complete a nine-game regular season schedule are not uncommon for varsity football in Michigan, but are problems rarely experienced in basketball.

That could change if seeding based on wins and strength of schedule comes to MHSAA Basketball Tournaments.

With an easier road to District and Regional titles gifted to higher seeded teams, coaches will want a regular season schedule that is difficult but not too difficult. They will seek a league that is tough, but not too tough. This is the recipe for scheduling headaches. Strong schools will have difficulty finding a full schedule of games, while weaker or simply smaller schools will have difficulty finding a league.

Fearing blemishes on the regular season win/loss records, coaches will delay playing substitutes and avoid sitting out or suspending good players who are bad actors. Every eligibility snafu leading to forfeit will carry tournament seeding consequences. The temptation to hide ineligibilities and the inclination to fight forfeits, not infrequent in football, will come to basketball.

Developing a seeding plan is not at all difficult, but living with one could be.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.